The Problems Facing UK Music Festival Organisers

Across the UK, the range of different music festivals on offer every year has become a testament to the popularity of this ever-evolving tradition. At this point, there are close to 1,000 music festivals every year in the UK. Outdoor festivals vary greatly in scale and the kinds of entertainment on offer, but there’s certainly something for everyone at this point. People are even willing to travel around the world to attend their favourite festivals.

So what is it about standing in a muddy field for an entire day that tens of thousands of people love so much? Well, as long as you have enough endurance, a music festival is basically a continuous stream of fun and entertainment. Not only do you have a chance to see sometimes dozens of different headliners, but the exciting atmosphere, fun and food on offer can make for a truly memorable experience.

Of course, the fans do keep the biggest festivals going, but they’re not supplying the majority of the cash to do so in many cases. In addition to ticket sales, sponsorship is a crucial source of revenue for almost all festivals.

Global brands often receive criticism for their overbearing presence at music festivals, which is usually a result of massive funding they offer in exchange for advertising space. Once they buy this presence, brands are increasingly looking for new and innovative ways to actually connect with music fans at the event and blend in seamlessly with the experience.

This is especially important for businesses looking to connect with millennials, who represent over half of the attendees at the average music festival. Part of their strategy is increasingly focusing on social media, as this is a potentially unlimited way to increase brand exposure exponentially as people share and re-share their status updates, photos and videos.

Music festivals are a fantastic way for guests to explore and discover new music that they wouldn’t have otherwise paid attention to. However, the real draw for both fans and promoters is a festival that gets the biggest names. Competition is fierce for festivals looking to book the most popular acts, as they represent guaranteed a stream of guests into the event (and revenue into their pockets).

Festivals are willing to pay huge amounts of money to secure exclusive headliners in order to secure those ticket sales and the later revenue that comes with those guests. The problem is that headline acts are few and far between with the number of festivals competing against each other. Balancing the need to book highly popular performers against keeping ticket prices affordable is a tricky business for organisers.

Concerts vs Festivals: Which Is Better?

For most of us, seeing our musical heroes performing live is something we’d really like to spend more time doing, but we only really have a limited budget for such activities. This leads to decisions being made based on what price is justifiable to see your favourite acts live. Often you may be presented with two options: concerts and major music festivals. But which is better? Let’s weigh up how they fare on a few different points.

Seeing your favourite artist

If you only have or two favourite acts and you really want to see them perform, you’ll get the best experience seeing them in their own concert as a rule. They’ll be able to put on a more spectacular show most of the time, and you’ll usually get the full experience with a longer set list and a perhaps more manageable audience size.

Experiencing different performances

Of course, you will get to see a great many more different artists performing if you go to a music festival, where you could be seeing anything from a handful of acts to maybe bits and pieces of twenty or thirty performances. This can be a lot more fun if you have a short attention span and you’re open to many different styles of performance.

Discovering new music

As a result, it’s pretty clear that you’ll discover a lot of acts you hadn’t really heard of or paid attention to before when you attend a music festival. Some you might never want to hear again, but you’re bound to discover a few great ones. You might get one or two support acts at a concert, and in fairness they should be hand-picked by your chosen artist as something you’re likely to enjoy, but don’t be surprised if they’re not to your taste.

Getting trapped in the crowd

A pitfall of either concerts or music festivals is getting stuck waiting in a huge crowd and being unable to leave for fear or losing your place and your view of the stage. At a concert this may be only for a few hours at least, but on the other hand there’s nowhere to escape to. At a festival you’re free to come and go as you please, usually wandering between stages, but if you really want to be at the front for a late night headliner you could find yourself spending an entire day at the front of the crowd.

Relaxing and having fun

We’re usually planning to have a great time when we go to a music event, and a festival will usually cater more towards this goal. You’ll probably find a greater range of food, drink and other entertainment to keep you going between performances, although it might be a long and exhausting day. A concert can typically take just a few hours, even if you do have to queue for a long time beforehand, so it should be less tiring but there might not be much else to do other than waiting for your act to come on stage.

Highlights of Download Festival 2016


Earlier this summer, Download 2016 was a huge success – as it always is every year, despite the weather being less than favourable. It threw it down with rain for much of the weekend, but that didn’t stop metal and rock fans having a great time throughout the festival at Donnington Park. It may seem a world away from Jersey, but we know many fans are regular visitors to both!

Starting on Friday June 10th, one of the main performers originally slated to appear on the main stage was Motörhead. Sadly, frontman Ian “Lemmy” Kilminster passed away at the end of last year, prompting the festival’s organisers to christen the main stage “The Lemmy Stage” and a moving tribute film to be premiered during Motörhead’s original slot.

The band’s iconic legacy was brought to the Lemmy Stage by the rest of the Friday’s performers, though, particularly by bands like Killswitch Engage who paid tribute to Lemmy during their electrifying set. Later, Rammstein headlined the first night on the Lemmy stage and put on a spectacular show for the crowd including flamethrowers, pirates and, of course, a relentless heavy metal soundtrack (except for an impressive acoustic moment in the encore). At the same time, All Time Low headlined the Encore Stage with a slightly more radio-friendly but equally entertaining set.

Highlights from Saturday at Download included NOFX, who headlined the Encore Stage on the second night of the festival. Celebrating over thirty years as a band, they delivered an entertaining and authentically punk rock set, even if it wasn’t really meant to be taken seriously. Simultaneously back on the main stage, Ozzy Osbourne led Black Sabbath in one of the final concerts of their 2016 tour, which they have said will be their last. Although the ageing pioneers of hard rock didn’t deliver their most energetic set to date, this was a farewell to fans that felt very much like classic Download.

On the last day of the festival, Nightwish played in the penultimate slot on the Lemmy Stage and entertained the weary crowd with 11 haunting numbers. They left the stage before the final headliners, Iron Maiden, came out (after some delay) to deliver an amazing performance complete with ruined Mayan temple staging. Overall it did feel like many of the headliners this year were there to pull in the biggest crowds, but the real fresh talent stole the show further down the bill. Perhaps next year we’ll see some of the younger metal rockers taking more of the top slots?